The tourism industry has the power and potential to reignite South Africa’s ailing economy, but to do so it’s going to need more than support from domestic travellers. Government needs to give the green light for reopening borders.
“Tourism can be South Africa’s economic lifeline, but only if international borders are opened up soon,” said Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa. “We are appealing to the Government to safely open our borders. Our industry is ready, our source markets are waiting to travel, so let's save jobs and the economy.”
He said this in reaction to today’s announcement by Statistics South Africa that South Africa’s gross domestic product had declined by 51% during the second quarter of this financial year.
“Today’s announcement puts the spotlight on swift measures that will need to be put in place to aid South Africa’s ailing economy, which was already in the doldrums prior to COVID-19,” said Tshivhengwa.
He added that, while tourism stakeholders agreed that the reprieve granted by domestic travel provided a lifeline, it could not be the industry’s lifeblood on a sustainable basis. “An opening date is critical if tourism is to reignite South Africa’s economy, not only to ensure that international trade can plan ahead, but also so that airlines can retain South Africa on their schedules.”
Tshivhengwa pointed out that if airlines decided to redeploy their aircraft or reduce their schedules, this would have a direct impact not only on tourism but also on trade.
“The safe reopening of South Africa’s borders is an essential step for tourism to contribute meaningfully to government’s tax revenues. Every day we remain closed to international travel, we lose R336 million (€16.7m) of spend,” he said.
Tourism’s value to SA’s GDP growth
According to advisory firm, PWC’s Public and Private Growth Initiative Report (2019), tourism is “the number-one industry in South Africa with the greatest potential to stimulate inclusive economic growth and employment, creating the greatest multiplier effect – in terms of jobs, growth and export potential”.
The report highlights that for this to happen, the tourism sector requires “targeted economic stimulation and favourable policy decisions for it to flourish and become the jobs multiplier and economic powerhouse it has the potential to become”.
Tourism’s contribution to employment was already estimated to be larger than the individual contribution of agriculture, automotive manufacturing, chemical manufacturing and mining, with some 1.5 million people employed directly and indirectly through the sector, said Tshivhengwa.
He added that tourism also generated R120bn (€5.9bn) in foreign exchange from visitor receipts in 2018, adding up to about 8.7% of South Africa’s exports – second only to mining.